Migraine—Child

Definition

Migraine is a type of recurring headache that involves blood vessels, nerves, and brain chemicals. Sensations called auras may come before a migraine. Auras can include visual changes or numbness and tingling. There are two types of migraines:
  • Migraine occurring with an aura
  • Migraine occurring without an aura
Migraine
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 Migraine headaches can affect a child’s performance in school, relationships with friends and family, and other factors in a child’s life.

Causes

The precise reason that a child is susceptible to migraines is unknown. Factors that may play a role include:
  • Genetics and environmental triggers
  • Changes in a nerve that serves as a major pain pathway
  • Imbalance in brain chemicals, like serotonin
Factors that can trigger a migraine include:
  • Physical exertion or too little physical activity
  • Too much sleep or too little sleep
  • Missing a meal
  • Motion sickness from traveling
  • Tiredness
  • Overuse of pain medicines
  • Being overweight
  • Smoking
  • Certain foods such as chocolate, citrus fruits, dairy, processed meats, or fried foods
  • Certain environmental triggers such as flashing lights, odors, loud noises, or weather changes

Risk Factors

Factors that increase your child’s chance of migraines may include:
  • Gender: more common in male children than female but more common in females after puberty
  • Age: average age a child may get a migraine headache is 7 years old (boys) and 10 years old for (girls)
  • Family history of migraines
  • Infantile colic

Symptoms

Migraines occur in phases that may include:

Warning

A warning may come before a migraine. In the hours or days before the headache, symptoms may include:
  • A change in mood
  • A change in behavior
  • A change in the level of activity
  • Fatigue
  • Yawning
  • Food craving or decreased appetite
  • Nausea, diarrhea
  • Sensitivity to light

Aura

The most common aura is visual. The aura lasts about 15-30 minutes. It may produce the following sensations:
  • Flashing lights, spots, or zig zag lines
  • Temporary partial loss of vision
  • Speech difficulties
  • Weakness in an arm or leg
  • Numbness or tingling in the face and hands

The Migraine Headache

Migraine pain starts within an hour of the aura ending. Symptoms include:
  • A headache (usually on one side but may involve both sides) that often feels:
    • Moderate or severe in intensity
    • Throbbing or pulsating
    • More severe with movement
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sensitivity to light or sound
  • Lightheadedness

A Post-Headache Period

Migraines usually last from 4-72 hours. They often go away with sleep. After the headache, your child may experience:
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Fatigue
  • Sore muscles
  • Irritability
  • Mood changes

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